If The Simpsons are part of your family’s decades-old viewing habits on Channel Ten – or M*A*S*H for Boomers – and you’ve been wondering why they’ve been missing from the schedule lately, it’s because the financially troubled TV station has been blocked from broadcasting any more episodes by 21st Century Fox.
But perhaps it’s a sign of Homer’s waning influence over the 25 years the cartoon comedy has been on air that no one really noticed it was missing until this week, when news broke that Fox had pulled the pin on its long-standing deal with Ten after negotiations over a new contract broke down. News.com.au reported that “Fox is understood to have been unhappy with the amount Ten offered to pay for its content.”
Apparently The Simpsons disappeared last month, while a range of other popular programs such as This Is Us, Futurama and Modern Family were pulled from air last week on verbal orders from Fox, with the two sides unable strike a rights deal.
All Ten would say about the matter is: “Fox content is not playing on Network Ten at this stage.”
But this should be seen by conspiracy theorists as a sign of the Murdoch-controlled empire wreaking revenge on Ten after it missed out on buying the broke free-to-air broadcaster from the receivers, who went with US giant CBS instead. Ten’s future direction is currently in limbo, with the CBS deal yet to be finalised.
It could be a blessing in disguise for the station’s new owners, especially after KPMG’s report into Ten’s value this week, which looked at it as both a going concern and distressed business, concluded it worthless. In fact, it was less than that, with KPMG suggesting Ten had a negative equity value of between $529.2 million and $543.7 million.
Ten’s deals with Fox and CBS were reported to have cost the station up to $100 million annually, and content deals with the US, which have sought to extract maximum dollars from the Australian market, have been a sore point for the local industry for some years. The end of the Ten-CBS relationship has rivals circling, but Seven and Nine are also in the middle of content negotiations, and local broadcasters are keen to cherry-pick programs rather than buying the full smorgasbord of programming (which is why Australian viewers end up being force fed a diet of shows that have already been canned in the US after one season).
In an era when media sector costs are being driven down relentlessly, the shift in traditional alliances paves the way for a major shakeup in the way international media companies do business with each other.
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